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Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson, South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane has branded David Trimble's attack on international human rights work as a disgrace.

Speaking from Columbia, Ms Ruane said:

"Human Rights organisations have played and continue to play an important role in the advancement of the Irish Peace Process. The work of human rights lawyers like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson have been vital in defending people and communities against the worst excesses of this state.

"Those who protest loudest against the work of human rights organisations clearly have a vested interest in suppressing the truth about human rights abuses.

"David Trimble's comments have contributed to the culture of impunity that exists within the many armed wings of the British establishment, the British Army, MI5, the RUC and Special Branch who have operated outside of the law and with no regard to international human rights standards.

"Making these remarks at an international conference also gives succour to some of the most repressive regimes throughout the world where there is a refusal to acknowledge international human rights agencies and where there are systematic and massive abuses of human rights."ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Environmental spokesperson Willie Clarke MLA, has responded to a report study published in the magazine Science, which claimed that farmed Atlantic salmon from Scotland contains the highest levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the world.

Cllr Clarke said:

"There is a genuine fear that eating farmed salmon increases the risk of cancer. People are worried about toxicity levels, and the growth hormones and chemicals used in large commercial farms. Last week's report in the respected American scientific journal 'Science' claimed that Scottish fish farms were amongst the most contaminated in the world. This report has the potential to damage consumer confidence in the Irish salmon farming industry.

"An integrated all-Ireland approach must be brought forward in order to develop aquaculture, and salmon farming is a key to this industry. There is no long-term economic or environmental sense in trying to compete with the massive Norwegian and Chilean factory farms that have flooded the global market with cheap fish. Irish salmon must be synonymous with safety and quality.

"To achieve this the emphasis must be on low-intensity farming along organic guidelines. It is also essential that we provide proper protection for wild salmon habitats. We need to see further investment in feeding methods so techniques can continue to evolve and improve and natural food sources such as the sand eel preserved. Proper investment and support from the Irish and British Governments will be a key factor in achieving this.

"Every effort must be made to develop a quality product that is sustainable, safe to eat and an alternative to mass production. This can only be achieved with North/South co-operation."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU Parliament candidate Marylou McDonald has claimed the report by CORI today showing that 20% of households living in poverty are headed by someone in employment exposes a problem that "this Government is mentally and ideologically incapable of dealing with." Pointing to massive increases in calls for assistance from employed people to Vincent de Paul last year, McDonald went on to point to regressive stealth taxes such as the Bin Charges and the failure of the Government to take on vested interests and big business as reasons for increasing levels of poverty.

McDonald said: "This is the latest in a series of indicators that Ireland is increasingly dealing with rising numbers of working poor, a group of people this Government is mentally and ideologically incapable of dealing with.

"The Government's response to poverty over the last seven years has been a blank assumption that employment will solve everything. The idea that someone could be working long hours in backbreaking labour and still be living in poverty is a notion they find incomprehensible. But this CORI report indicates almost 20% of households living below the poverty line are now headed by someone in employment. Many more are headed by people outside the labour force who are retired, ill or on disability.

"According to St Vincent de Paul's annual report the number of calls for help they received in Dublin alone increased by 94% last year. The fastest growing group of people seeking the society's help are people who are working, but on low incomes, the type of people crippled by the regressive stealth taxes Minister McCreevy is so fond of.

"Since 1997 this Government has concentrated on tax cuts for the rich while avoiding the reality and ignoring what is required to seriously tackle poverty in Ireland. Job creation alone will not address the appalling inequalities in Irish society. To eliminate poverty in Ireland we need a Government willing to take on vested interests and big business. Instead we have a Government in their pocket." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has described as "profoundly disappointing" and in "contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement" today's judgement in the Supreme Court which ruled that the release of prisoners qualifying under the Good Friday Agreement is at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. Mr Ferris made his comments as two men, Michael O'Neill and John Quinn convicted in connection with events surrounding the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe lost their appeal against the denial of their early release.

Deputy Ferris said: "It is profoundly disappointing that the Supreme Court has ruled in this fashion. The Good Friday Agreement does not draw any distinction between prisoners belonging to organisations on cessation at the time of its signing. It states that all such prisoners will be released within two years of the signing of the agreement.

"Today's judgement confirms that these men are in fact qualifying prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as it has applied to others convicted of 'equally or even more serious' offences. However, in its ruling the Court has unfortunately said that it is acceptable for one party to the Good Friday Agreement to act unilaterally and take on itself to go outside the terms of that agreement. That is completely unacceptable and undermines the agreement itself.

"The Irish Government cannot preach to others about their obligations in relation to the peace process when they themselves are not willing to live up to their own responsibilities. And it is certainly not good enough that these men's rights under the Good Friday Agreement are left to the whim of a vindictive and anti-republican Minister for Justice." ENDS

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Sinn Fein's EU Candidate for Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald last night spoke at a debate organised by the TCD Historical Society (28.01.04). Representatives of some of the other main political parties also attended the debate, entitled 'That the EU Constitution is the Death of National Sovereignty'.

In her address to the society, McDonald reiterated that Sinn Fein remained concerned about the creeping advances toward a European Super state and the gradual demise of national sovereignty.

Ms. McDonald said:

"The development of the European project from the Coal and Steel Community onwards has seen a gradual but measurable centralisation of power and erosion of national sovereignty.

"Just as with the Nice Treaty, the very welcome enlargement process is used as a pretext for this new constitution. But this is not just a treaty reorganising the EU, it is a treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. As such, the proposed constitution consolidates and strengthens the grip on national sovereignty.

"It should be remembered that the EEC started out as a project of economic cooperation, a partnership of equal states that made decisions by consensus. We have moved very far from the original model of cooperation. There is now not a single aspect of Irish life over which the EU does not exercise some level of legislative control or powerful influence.

"Irish sovereignty is further diminished and imperilled by the draft constitution. Sinn Féin opposes such an EU superstate. It is far removed from the Europe of equals that we are working to create."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy has demanded that the legislation regarding electoral registration is changed. His call comes in advance of the new register being released which is expected to show another fall in the numbers eligible to vote by around 30,000.

Mr Murphy said:

"Last year when the first register compiled under the new legislation was produced well over 130,000 people were missing. Some people did manage to get back onto the register but over 100,000 were disenfranchised as a direct result of legislation demanded by the SDLP and UUP.

"It is obvious from discussions we have had with both the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission that this situation is going to get worse year on year and that the register will continue to shrink.

"It is my expectation that the register due to be made public on Monday will once again show a significant increase in the amount of people disenfranchised.

"This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The legislation needs to be changed and people's right to vote, once again, needs to be made paramount." ENDS

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Tá comhairleoirí de chuid Shinn Fein, Breandán Lewis agus Brendan Curran tar éis rún a chur chuig Comhairle an Iúir agus Mhúrn ag iarraidh ar an Taoiseach tacú le stádas oifigiúil don Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach. Deir an rún: "Go ndéanfaidh an Taoiseach leasú ar riail 1/1958 a mholadh i rith téarma s'aige mar Uachtarán ar an Aontas Eorpach, le go mbeidh an Ghaeilge san áireamh mar theanga oifigiúil oibre san Aontas."

Dúirt an Comhairleoir Lewis, agus é ag cur an rúin chun tosaigh i gcomhar le Brendan Curran ar 19 Eanáir, dúirt sé go dtiocfadh leis an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern úsáid a bhaint as Uachtaránacht na hÉireann san Aontas Eorpach le cinnte a dhéanamh go mbeidh an Ghaeilge ina teanga oifigiúil oibre. Ag caint leis, dúirt an Comhairleoir Lewis:

"Is cúis náire é teip Rialtas na hÉireann aitheantas oifigiúil oibre a bhaint amach don Ghaeilge nuair a ghabh Éire leis an EEC. Is amhlaidh go raibh dearcadh gach rialtas na hÉireann ó shin amach ina chúis náire agus neamart a dhéanamh acu ar an teanga i rith an ama. Tá deis ag an Rialtas láithreach an scéal seo a athrú i rith téarma s'acu le hUachtaracht na hÉireann ar an Aontas Eorpach. I mbliana, le breis stát ag teacht isteach san Aontas, rachaidh líon na dteangacha oibre i méid, ó 11 go dtí 20 ceann.

"Tá sé go hiomlán doghlactha go bhfánfadh Éire mar an t-aon stát nach bhfuil teanga s'acu aitheanta mar theanga oibre. Tá an tAontas Eorpach brodúil as an íomha cuimsitheach atá aige agus an t-aitheantas a thugtar ar an éagsúlacht sna ballstáit.

"Muise, sa chlár dá théarma Uachtaránachta, deir rialtas na hÉireann go bhfuil caomhnú na héagsúlachta cultúrtha san Eorap ina phríoracht acu. Bheadh sé ina ábhar buairimh ó thaobh dáiríreacht Rialtas na hÉireann de agus muinín s'acu ina ina muintir féin, muna bhfuil siad toilteanach saibhreas cultúrtha na hÉireann a chaomhnú. Cé gur chóir go mbeadh an Ghaeilge ina theanga oibre on tús, léiríonn an 30 bliain seo caite go bhfuil sé níos tábhachtaí anois ná ariamh go gcuirfí an Ghaeilge san áireamh san Eorap.

"Chonaiceamar fás substaintiúil sna meáin chumarsáide trí mheán na Gaeilge, san oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge, le bunú gnónna Gaeilge agus ardú speis sa teanga go ginearálta. Feidhmíonn an Ghaeilge ar an idirlíon chomh maith le teanga ar bith eile. Aithníonn grúpaí teanga agus Gaeilgeoirí go bhfuil i bhfad níos mó de dhíth, ach níl aon amhras faoin ghá agus faoin éileamh leis an Ghaeilge a fhorbairt taobh le cultúr na hÉireann go ginearálta.

"Bheadh tionchar mór ag aitheantas idirnáisiúnta den chineál seo ar lucht na Gaeilge. Sholátharfadh sé deiseanna fostaíochta. Bíonn Comhairle an Iúir agus Mhúrn chun tosaigh ó thaobh forbairt na Gaeilge ag leibhéal rialtais áitiúla de. Aithníodh é seo go minic ag ionadaithe Rialtas na hÉireann, ball na Chomh-áireachta láithrí san áireamh. Mar sin, tá tionchar ag an Chomhairle seo agus cuirfidh sé go mór le feachtas Stádas, an scáth-ghrúpa d'eagraíochtaí difriúla agus daoine aonaracha ó achan carn den tír, a bhfuil tacaíocht aige ó sciar mhaith de na páirtithe polaitiúla ar an ghné seo.

"Cuirfeadh freagra dearfach in iúl do Ghaeilgeoirí go bhfuil cinneadh dáiríre glactha leis na ceisteanna a bhainean leis an Ghaegile i gComhaontú Aoine an Chéasta a chomhlíonadh. Is féidir stádas ceart a bhaint amach don Ghaeilge. Níl pobail na dtíortha eile ná a gcuid Rialtas in éadan an aitheantais sin a bhronnadh ar an Ghaeilge. Is é an cheist ná an bhfuil an toil nó an claonadh ag Rialtas na hÉireann aon rud a dhéanamh faoi?

Ag tacú leis an rún, duirt Brendan Curran:

" Is é atá sa rún seo ná léiriú ar mhianta s'againne go mbronnfar aitheantas idirnáisiúnta ar an Ghaeilge. Bheadh tacú leis an rún ina chéim dhearfach phraicticiúil.

"Le teacht mí na Bealtaine beidh 20 teanga aitheanta go hoifigiúil san Aontas Eorpach. Is deis iontach é seo, agus Uachtaránacht Chomhairle na hEorpa ag Bertie Ahern, leis an t-ainteantas oifigiúil sin a baint amach. Táimid cinnte nach gcuirfidh tír ar bith eile i gcoinne seo. Admhaíodh cheana gur chóir seo a bheith againn 30 bliain ó shin nuair a ghabh Éire leis an Aontas Eorpach ar dtús.

"Creidimid go bhfuil an tacaíocht agus an dea-thoil ann láistigh de struchtúir an Aontais Eorpaigh, dá n-iarrfadh rialtas na hÉireann é. "Tá mé ag iarraidh ar na comhairleoirí ar fad tacú leis an rún le taispeáint go bhfuil muid aontaithe ag cur an polasaíi dátheangach de chuid Chomhairle an Iúir agus Mhúrn chun tosaigh."

Ritheadh an run thuas luaite le tacaíocht an SDLP. Chuir Comhairleoirí Aontachtúla ina éadan.

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Speaking today from Dublin where the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle is meeting, party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said that 'the Irish government needed to make it clear to the DUP at today's talks that they will not be allowed to veto the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.'

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle is meeting today in Dublin to discuss the commencement of the Review next week and to finalise arrangements for the Ard Fheis at the end of February.

"Also today an Irish government delegation led by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will meet with the DUP in London. While all dialogue is welcome, it is vital that the Irish government make it clear to the DUP that the Review process is just that, a review. It is not a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and it will not be allowed to become one.

"They need to impress upon Mr. Paisley and his delegation that the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the advances required across a range of issues including Human Rights, Demilitarisation, Equality and Policing cannot and will not be allowed to be vetoed by the DUP."ENDS

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Speaking at the Joint Finance and Public Service Committee today, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin questioned the investment procedures of the National Pension Reserve Fund, saying it was "most objectionable" for the Fund to be investing in the tobacco industry and the defence industry. Donal Geaney, Chairperson of the Fund, admitted in answer to a question from Deputy Ó Caoláin that there are "no ethical guidelines" for investment.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "One of the companies in which the Fund has shares is the Imperial Tobacco Group in Britain. It is most objectionable that Irish taxpayers' money should be invested in the tobacco industry. We are attempting to combat the massive public health scourge that is tobacco consumption, yet here public money is being invested in one of the largest cigarette manufacturers and distributors in the world.

"True to its name, Imperial Tobacco is aggressively expanding its operations in Africa where consumption is growing as it falls in Europe. I don't have to outline the public health consequences for the impoverished countries of Africa. As a Fund owned by the Irish people I do not believe our money should be invested in this industry, nor do I believe it ethical to do so given that our Government is rigorously enforcing a ban on smoking in this country for reasons of health protection allegedly.

"Imperial Tobacco is just one company. I note also on the list is CAE Inc. in Canada which is one of the world's top 100 defence corporations. I think it is also objectionable that this Fund, owned by the Irish people, should be investing in the international arms trade. Do we not constantly hear that Ireland is a neutral country?

"The chairperson of the National Pension Reserve Fund has admitted to me that there are no ethical guidelines for the Fund's investment portfolio. The Government should immediately rectify this and ensure such guidelines are setdown for the fund managers." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD and Councillor Gerry McHugh, have strongly condemned today's decision by the European Commission to allow the sale of Genetically Modified maize. The maize variety, Bt 11, is manufactured by the Swiss Corporation Syngenta.

Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh said:

"Sinn Féin is strongly opposed to the introduction of GM and has campaigned strongly over the past year to draw attention to the fact that the EU was going to succumb to pressure from the giant multi-nationals and the US against the weight of public opinion in the member states.

"Before Christmas we exposed the fact that the Irish representative had voted in favour of the removal, despite a commitment by Fianna Fáil in their 1997 election manifesto to oppose the introduction of GM. We condemn the decision of the Irish Government to vote for this measure and will be campaigning to ensure that this island remains GM free". ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has described a section of the emergency Immigration Bill 2004 which allows Immigration officers to refuse entry to the State to non-nationals if they suffer from a disability (Section 4(3)(c)) as "a prime example of everything that is wrong with the Government's attempt to ram through the Immigration Bill 2004 without proper debate and examination."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "Even a cursory glance at this Bill reveals serious issues regarding the legislation and its implications for human rights. The stopping of non-nationals coming into the State on the basis that they may have a disability is absolutely offensive and totally unacceptable, yet typifies everything this that is wrong with this Government's approach to human and equal rights.

"Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice in his usual arrogant fashion expects all members of this House to meekly rubber-stamp his authoritarian decisions like feckless Government backbenchers without proper debate or discussion. Not only is this a fundamentally undemocratic it makes a mockery of both proceedings in the Dáil and the High Court judgment.

"The recent High Court decision afforded us as legislators a second chance to get this Bill right. The onus is on the Government to make sure that we, the elected representatives of the people of this State, have adequate time to properly examine and debate all aspects of this Bill to ensure that this House and the laws it enacts are not once again brought in to disrepute through the ill-considered and callous nature of the Minister's approach to human rights." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly has claimed that remarks made by the SDLP member Alex Attwood after he met with the Police Federation vindicate completely the stance taken by Sinn Féin on the issue.

Mr Kelly said:

"Yesterday Alex Attwood met with the Police Federation. After the meeting Mr Attwood claimed that members of the Federation who are members of the PSNI were not committed to the Patten reforms.

"Sinn Féin have consistently said that the old RUC group which moved en masse into the PSNI, especially those within Special Branch, were a block to achieving an acceptable policing service. The SDLP have consistently claimed that such an acceptable policing service had already been achieved.

"Alex Attwood comments yesterday vindicate the Sinn Féin position. He is now accepting that we do not yet have an acceptable policing service and that there are those within the PSNI resisting the creation of one. That is why Sinn Féin stayed out of the current arrangements and instead focused on negotiating with the British government on getting policing structures right." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Fra McCann has accused the PSNI of 'engaging in a campaign of harassment against republicans'. Mr McCann's remarks come after homes in New Barnsley and Ballymurphy were raided this morning and one man was arrested.

Mr McCann said:

"This morning at around 7.45am four homes in the New Barnsley and Ballymurphy area were raided by heavily armed PSNI members. So far one local man has been arrested. These raids are part of a well planned and deliberate campaign of harassment against republicans by the PSNI.

"We are told time and again by the SDLP and others that we have achieved a new beginning to policing. I would challenge anyone to explain the differences between this mornings operation and those carried out in this area by the RUC over many years.

"Sinn Fein will be raising these raids with the British government and I am demanding that the PSNI release the man they have arrested without delay." ENDS

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Speaking at the publication of Sinn Féin's agenda for the paragraph 8 review of the Good Friday Agreement due to start next Tuesday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has said that the Review will not be a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement but it is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement.

Mr Adams said:

"The purpose of the Review is to identify how best to deliver the full implementation of the Agreement. This requires a focus on the failure of the British government to deliver on key commitments on policing, demilitarisation, equality and the issue of human rights.

"Sinn Féin will approach this review positively. The other pro-Agreement parties and the two governments must also take a positive and constructive approach. The future of the Good Friday Agreement demands this.

"The Good Friday Agreement committed the participants to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and trust and the vindication of the human rights of all. We collectively committed ourselves to partnership, equality and mutual respect.

"To be effective the review must defend and accelerate the process of change promised in the Good Friday Agreement"

Outlining Sinn Féin's Agenda for the Full Implementation of the Agreement, Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA and Six County EU candidate Bairbre de Brún said that the party had focused on four key areas - Stability of the Institutions; Equality and Human Rights; Expansion of All Ireland Commitments; and Demilitarisation, policing and justice.

Ms de Brún added:

"The Review will not be a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement but it is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement. This demands action across a range of areas including the stability of the political institutions; human rights and equality; expansion of the All Ireland commitments; and demilitarisation, policing and justice." ENDS

Agenda for full implementation of the Agreement

  • Stability of the institutions
  • Re-endorsement of the Agreement by all participants.
  • Border Poll - Sinn Féin will be seeking firm commitments on a date for a simultaneous poll on Irish unity, north and south.
  • Suspension legislation - the political institutions must be restored and the NI Act 2000 that gives powers of suspension to the British government repealed.
  • International Monitoring Commission - the International Monitoring Commission is outside the terms of the Agreement. The IMC should be abolished and the legislation, which established it, repealed.
  • Safeguards - the review must protect the safeguards built into the review to guarantee inclusivity and the protection of the rights and interests of all sides of the community.
  • North South Ministerial Council - participation in the North South Ministerial Council is an essential right and responsibility of relevant Ministers in the Executive. This cannot be subject to veto.
  • Ministerial Pledge of Office - breaches of Ministerial Office should be subject to sanction within the terms of the Agreement.

Equality and Human Rights

  • Equality - full implementation of the Equality Agenda to create an equality based society across the island.
  • Equality duty: Section 75 - to agree the basis for the forthcoming review of the operation of section 75 and identify other bodies that should be subject to the S75 duty.
  • Single Equality Bill - enactment and implementation of the Single Equality Bill. The review should also address the issue of discrimination on grounds of Œnational security‚ and the nationality requirement for civil service jobs.
  • Human Rights - full implementation of the Human Rights Agenda to create a human rights based society across the island.
  • The Human Rights Commission - the Commission should be reconstructed to address, particularly, the issues of composition, independence and powers.
  • Bill of Rights - a round table forum, with an international chair, involving the political parties and civic society to take forward the development of the Bill of Rights.
  • All Ireland Charter of Rights - the development of an all-Ireland Charter of Rights.
  • Victims and Reconciliation - address the suffering of the victims of the conflict as a necessary element of reconciliation. An approach to victims based on parity of esteem rather than a hierarchy of victims.
  • Addressing outstanding issues in relation to prisoners.
  • Collusion, state and state-sponsored violence - full disclosure on the policy of collusion including publication of the Cory Report and establishment of effective independent inquiries.
  • Irish Language - full implementation of the commitment to recognise and promote the use of the Irish language, including a comprehensive Irish Language Act to formally give recognition to the Irish language and the appointment of an Irish Language Commissioner.
  • Flags, symbols and emblems - participants to the Agreement acknowledged that symbols and emblems should be used in a manner, which promotes mutual respect rather than division. This requires the repeal of the Flags (NI) Order 2000 and the Flags regulations (NI) 2000 and the development of a Code of Practice to govern the use of symbols and emblems.

Expansion of the All Ireland commitments

  • Expansion of All Ireland areas of co-operation and implementation bodies - the review is an opportunity to identify additional areas for co-operation and implementation.
  • Establishment of the All Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum.
  • Establishment of the All Ireland Consultative Forum.
  • Demilitarisation, policing and justice
  • The Issue of Arms - all parties must use their influence to resolve the issue of arms, in the context of the implementation of the Agreement. In addition, the proliferation of legally held arms needs also to be addressed.
  • Demilitarisation - a comprehensive programme of demilitarisation, including the withdrawal of all British soldiers from the north; the removal of military installations; the removal of emergency legislation, and other measures appropriate to and compatible with a normal peaceful society.
  • Policing - the full implementation of the Patten recommendations along with the withdrawal from use of plastic baton rounds; an independent complaints mechanism to investigate instances of use of plastic baton rounds by the British Army and additional resources for the Ombudsman to expedite the investigation of retrospective complaints.
  • Criminal Justice Review - new Criminal Justice provisions; the overhaul of the Inquest system (post Home Office Review); measures to address the issue of symbols and emblems on the basis of parity of esteem; and the need to promote mutual respect rather than division and the repeal of repressive legislation.
  • Transfer of powers on policing and justice.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at today's press conference in Killybegs, where he publicly announced Councillor Thomas Pringle's decision to join Sinn Féin said:

"Thomas Pringle is exactly the calibre of public representative that Sinn Féin is looking to attract as the party continues to develop an electoral dynamic that will bring about the most effective political representation for the people of this island.

"While the party as a whole continues to forge forward at a national level, inching ever closer to our objectives, it is people like Thomas, who will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of their local communities."

Cllr Thomas Pringle said:

"Over the past number of years I have been impressed with the energy, hard work and dedication of many Sinn Féin members in the Dáil and Councils. I believe that this is a party with a bright future and I hope to help shape that future.

"Since my election to Donegal County Council in 1999 I have always found it difficult to get cooperation on issues and motions as an independent with parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail putting there own party electoral interests before the interests of the people. My decision here today to join Sinn Fein is a decision to become part of a all Ireland party that will put the people first. I look forward to playing my role within this party in the coming months to help elect a strong team of Sinn Féin councillors to Donegal County Council that will challenge the cosy arrangements of the establishment parties."

Donegal Sinn Féin Chairperson and E.U candidate Pearse Doherty who chaired the press conference said:

"On behalf of Donegal Sinn Féin I would like to formally welcome Cllr. Thomas Pringle into the Party. Cllr Pringle is widely regarded as one of the hardest working and most dynamic public representatives in the county. We in Donegal Sinn Féin have been long term admirers of his work and we are absolutely thrilled that he is now joining our team in the county. I am confident that Cllr Pringle will be joined by several more Sinn Féin county councillors following the local election in June. This will be a new force in Donegal politics. A force to be reckoned with.

"Donegal has been ignored and neglected for too long. After June, the Sinn Féin team in Lifford will ensure that the forgotten voice of communities from one end of the county to the other is heard. The establishment parties have failed our county. Sinn Féin are the authentic voice of change and the addition of Cllr Pringle, a true champion of the people, to our team, proves this point conclusively" ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh used the first proper day of the new Dáil session to again call for the introduction of a "fully independent Garda Ombudsman" to re-establish public confidence in the Gardaí. He said that the Minister for Justice's proposed "Ombudsman Commission" still falls short of what is required for full police accountability and to "make the culture of impunity a thing of the past."

Raising the issue as a matter of urgent public importance during Order of Business Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In light of historic and recent patterns of Garda misconduct and abuse and the demonstrated failure of the present internal complaints investigation mechanisms including the Garda Complaints Board we need to introduce as a matter of urgency a fully independent Garda Ombudsman in this state."

Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that "only a fully independent Ombudsman with retrospective powers of investigation and whose remit is distinct from that of an independent civilian oversight body and local community accountability mechanisms - both of which are also needed to establish a fully transparent and accountable police force in this jurisdiction - can make the culture of impunity a thing of the past. But the Minister's proposed 'Ombudsman Commission' still falls far short of these requirements.

"In addition to the more recent cases of excessive use of force that hhave been graphically highlighted by Prime Time, Magill Magazine and elsewhere, there are numerous older high profile cases not covered by the two existing tribunals into excessive use of Garda force and Garda misconduct that still need to be investigated independently. Such cases include the revelation that files relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have disappeared, the murder of Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton in Donegal and the operation of the Heavy

Gang. In all of these cases the Gardaí and the existing complaints mechanisms have been shown to be completely incapable of addressing or satisfying the concerns of the wider public, and this has steadily eroded public confidence over time. But the Minister's proposals still do not allow for retrospective investigation. This is wrong. A fully independent Ombudsman with the proper powers is the only means of restoring public confidence.

"Sinn Fein is not alone in this belief. A consensus is forming on this issue. It is high time that the Minister drop the pretence that the Ombudsman v. Inspectorate issue is merely a matter of semantics - it is not. It is about powers of investigation and full independence and he knows it. The Minister's alleged compromise of an 'Ombudsman Commission' is just not good enough. I challenge him to take advantage of the growing consensus on this issue to introduce a Garda reform Bill that will command not only cross-party support,

but the broad support of the Irish people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will be joined by party colleagues Philip McGuigan MLA, Bairbre de Brún MLA and Geraldine Dougan MLA tomorrow morning (Wednesday 28th) to announce Sinn Féin priorities for the forthcoming Review.

The Press Conference will take place at 10.30am in the party offices on Sevastopol Street.

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Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has today criticised the appallingly poor provision of cancer treatment services in Ireland. Speaking at a Cancer Care Alliance Press Conference in response to the report of the Expert Group on Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland, Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The government should hang their heads in shame" over the failure to provide adequate cancer treatment services across the island of Ireland.

Deputy O Caoláin said:

"It is a cause for successive governments to hang their heads in shame but none more so than the present Government which has had nearly seven years of unprecedented prosperity to put it right and has failed to do so. All we have to show for their efforts so far is yet another report.

"A quarter of all deaths are caused by cancer and 50% to 60% of cancer patients require radiation therapy yet the service here falls down in both quantity and quality. There is what the Report calls "a profound deficit". We have the lowest number of consultant radiation oncologists in Western Europe. Availability and use of radiation therapy is significantly lower than EU and North American averages.

"We have seen the welcome extension of the Breast-check initiative for women but if radiation oncology services are not put in place, much of that work will be in vain because the treatments will not be available for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

"We need equality of access to these vital services both in economic terms and in geographic terms. Three centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway are not enough and not acceptable. Very ill patients from the North West, from South Ulster, - which I represent - and from the South East will have to travel long distances. Huge swathes of the country will be unserviced. That must be put right.

"The report speaks of special transport solutions and hotel/hostel accommodation for those who must travel. We have seen no such proposals from Government. Meanwhile we have totally inadequate public transport and ambulance services.

"We need an all-Ireland approach, which the Hollywood Report does not adopt. All the resources on the island of Ireland need to be taken into account and cross-border solutions included in plans for expansion of services. It is time to put the dreadful health services associated with the 1980s behind us and provide adequate and efficient treatment services for all those in dire need of it."ENDS

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Speaking following the publication by Permanent TSB and the ESRI of statistics on house price increases, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. stated that the publication of these figures confirm that Minister Noel Ahern is out of touch with the housing situation in this State.

Deputy Morgan said:

"House prices across the State grew by almost 14% last year. In some counties such as Monaghan, Roscommon and Mayo house prices grew by 20%. Since taking up the position of Minister of State with responsibility for Housing, Noel Ahern has claimed that house prices increases are coming to an end. This is clearly not the case and it is not good enough for the Government simply to ignore the growing affordability problems in this state.

"House prices continue to increase. First time buyers continue to be priced out of the housing market in growing numbers or forced into taking out exorbitantly high mortgages. If the Minister does not address this issue as a matter of priority he should not be allowed to continue in his current position. His failure to act is causing gross hardships for people throughout this State who are forced to continue living in unsuitable conditions and risk homelessness." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Higher and Further Education Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has said that the plans of the British Labour government to introduce top-up fees will introduce the marketplace into universities and discourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds from taking up university opportunities.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Sinn Fein are opposed to introduction of top-up fees. We believe that education is a basic right. Tuition fees should be abolished and the student loan should be replaced with a proper maintenance grant.

"The British Labour government plans to introduce top-fees are yet another stealth tax. Sinn Féin believes that education should be paid for through a progressive general taxation system. The so-called concessions offered by Tony Blair and his cronies do nothing to address the fundamental flaws in the policy.

"The way that the British government have approached the problem of increasing resources for universities and increasing access is deeply flawed. It will lead to the introduction of the marketplace into our universities and a two-tier third level education system. It will also act as a further barrier to expanding access to universities particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"This fiasco highlights a deep flaw at the heart of British government education policy and the failure of the previous Employment and Learning Minister to deal with it's impact here. We need to look at how be develop our workforce here so that it is able to drive forward a modern economy. This means that we need to widen access and it means that we need to support people financially across all the third level education options." ENDS

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